Friday, November 9, 2007
I'm a student of the University of Southern California and I recently wrote a paper covering War Photography, specifically David Douglas Duncan, and Robert Capa. These men were heroic, as most people who have read this blog know. Mr. Norfolk is just as brave as these men were. When Capa and Duncan worked however, they produced images that no one, or atleast the commmon public, had ever seen. They were intended to shock, sure, but more to educate viewers on what was really going on. I am twenty years old so all I've seen on the front page is war images it seems. Views from Afghanistan and Iraq litter my mind. I have become to accustomed to seeing these images that its almost a second nature of mine to naturally flip past the first page because the image has lost its effect to surprise me. In no way has the level of photography gone down (its greatly improved) but I feel like these war images have lost its ability to shock the public. My question is this. How does one go about being a professional photographer in today's world given such a great challenge to entertain and show something that has already been seen countless numbers of times? We can't ask the soldiers to stage anything or blow more things up of course but is there a way to solve the dilemma of being creative and beautiful in an area of study that is running like a broken record?
Fantastic blog and I learned a lot from it. You can find my blog at http://petefromphiladelphia.blogspot.com/
Thank you again.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I love the world, but I like it on my own terms. During the time I was making those first photos (before World War II), I bought a Ford 1934 Turing car, the dream wagon for $400. I traveled through every state of the Union, all the provinces of Canada, across southern Canada, selling prints to magazines, shooting other photos for about three dollars a shot.
I'd sleep in the car at night and use drained oil from the crankcase of other automobiles that drove across the country. Milk was about nine cents a quart. I'd go to the baker's and get a second day-old cinnamon role. It was fantastic.
That car and I covered the whole western part of America, and part of Canada, and Mexico, for nothing. Free as a bird, you could camp anyplace, anyplace. In a cornfield, out in a forest, in the orange groves of California, which are all suburbs now. Nobody lifted a finger except to welcome you or offer you a shower.
Now you're afraid to put your head out at night.
That's the kind of world I grew up in, and that's the kind of world I hope kids will inherit.
I had one, still have one basic principle. I never once photographed the face of a dead trooper, either American or Japanese or Korean or Vietnamese - never. I covered a lot of stuff other than just World War II: Korea, and Viet Nam. If you're on the battlefield as a civilian, you can walk away. They can't. They're stuck. They're in uniform. And it's not my privilege to photograph you if you've been shot. You have no defense against me.
I want to give a full picture of what's happened. But if it doesn't violate their privacy --that's number one. To hell with the photograph.
In many places, I was considered a bit odd, eccentric, because I didn't run. I walked. If I run I might run straight into it, if I slow down I might catch it this way. I do it on my own terms, so I slowed down and walked around and did these things and I've been very lucky. A couple little scratches but that's like a bumper job.
It's what I enjoy doing. Why does a bird sing? They sing, you know. It's very simple. I'm not doing it to satisfy you, that's for sure, I'm doing it to satisfy me. I do what I want to do to the best that I can do it.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
This article is a comparitive journalist piec of War Photography books written by famous Photographers. It has extracted gripping quotes about war and what it was like to be over there.
HERE'S no way around it," rues Michael Herr in Dispatches, the Under Fire of the Vietnam generation, "if you photographed a dead Marine with a poncho over his face and got something for it, you were some kind of parasite. But what were you if you pulled the poncho back first to make a better shot, and did that in front of his friends? Some other kind of parasite, I suppose. Then what were you if you stood there watching it, making a note to remember it later in case you might want to use it? Those combinations were infinite, you worked them out, and they involved only a small part of what we were thought to be. We were called thrill freaks, death-wishers, wound-seekers, war-lovers, hero-worshippers, closet queens, dope addicts, low-grade alcoholics, ghouls, communists, seditionists, more nasty things than I can remember. . . . And there were plenty of people who believed, finally, that we were nothing more than glorified war profiteers. And perhaps we were, those of us who didn't get killed or wounded or otherwise fucked up."
This is an incredibly honest quote and extremely real. Michael Herr was a war photography who has been through it all. He talks about how much war photographers were like the modern day paparazzi. They were ruthless scavengers who needed the perfect shot to make money. So they would stand in the face of death dozens of times...not be affected by taking a close up shot of a dead soldiers face. Watching someone get shot behind a lense. Its truly insane to think about that. I can't imagine the visuals that these men see everytime they close their eyes. It has to be atleast very similar to what soldiers see after they come back from war.
It continues on to talk about such things liek the government keeping dead american soldier images away from the public. Susan Sontag is then mentioned debating this saying that we NEED these images to make things real. We see so many of the same images every day that it gets to a certain point where the war becomes less real...we need to be shocked every once and a while. War Photography cannot be staged. There is no art in it in the sense of letting the photographer develop and plan the shot. War photographers base their careers on instinct. Whatever happens is what is captured. Nothing is planned. Thats why they dont get a second chance at their photographs.
A really cool quote i found from famous photographer David Douglas Duncan reads like a creed:
Be close-Be fast-Be lucky
Never close-ups of the dead
War is in the eyes
Friday, October 12, 2007
"Even in the age of television, still photography maintains a unique ability to grasp a moment out of the chaos of history and to preserve it and hold it up to the light. It puts a human face on events that might otherwise become clouded in political abstractions and statistics. It gives a voice to people who otherwise would not have one. If journalism is the first draft of history, then photography is all the more difficult, because in capturing a moment you don't get a second chance."- James Nachtwey
I couldnt agree more with that statement. Photography is incredible. It is the most realistic way to depict reality...pardon my wording but it really is as simple as that. Even nowadays with Spieldberg and Michael Bay movies exciting viewers everywhere with their special effects and action, photography will always still hold value in world wide culture. It is a still image of something real. Movies, even documentaries are less effective at letting the viewer decide what they are looking at. If you look above at this image by James Nachtwey titled "Rwanda" you can see the scars that have been afflicted upon this man's face. You don't necessarily have the whole story laid out in front of you so you are urged to learn more. Why is this man in such pain? Who caused this pain? Where did this happen and how? Professional photographers have all these questions racing through their heads when they set out to capture something this intriguing. So be it this may be Nachtwey's best but he took pride in all his work. From short snap shots to well composed images like this. I will continue on this post later...
This article is a short biography on Gerda Taro who was Robert Capa's on again off again lover. She was killed during combat in 1937 but she was not really remembered until Cornel Capa collected images of Taro's from teh past century and published them very recently. She had a gift and worked as a tag team with Robert Capa to create some of the most awe-inspiring images of war. When people see an image and read the name "Capa" they just assume that it was always Robert's work but in actuality, most of the time, the couple was working together to capture the still.
Robert Whelan is the author of this article. It is a direct attack on the credibility of Robert Capa's work "Falling Soldier" which i posted a picture of a few posts back. When Capa first published this picture in September of 1936 no one challenged if the photograph was real or staged until 1975 when South African O'Dowd Gallagher told author Philip Knightley about his take on the matter. Knightley, British born, soon after published his own book that included O'Dowd and several others questioning the authenticity of the image. The article goes on to talk about the claims that these guys made against Capa but their stories become blurred and mixed up. Their own credibility about their own allegations softens and I end up agreeing with Whelans re-enforced claim at the end of the article. he and I both believe strongly that Capa actually did take that photo in 1936 of Federico Borrell Garcia. Its really sad that people looked at Capa's work with such a skewed eye for the last 30 years solely because some guy wanted to make a name for himself by drinking Haterade. Ridiculous. Capa is a God and he proved why in this image, one of the most famous images of War. Ever.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
part of a full article about 3 photographers of war. This piece focuses on Carolyn Cole and what she has to say about war imagery and caputring in the heat of the moment during the Iraq invasion since 2003.
Above is an example of how close James really did get to the action...
For whatever reason...blogger isnt letting me post the link to the site but the url is right below the image so. Im sorry but this thing is pissing me off . anyways..
this article was very useful in getting into the mind of a war photographer. James Nachtway is in his 50's and is a professional war photographer. This article is an interview taken from Esquire magazine about what exactly it was like to photograph war.
There were a lot of great things said about being involved during combat and listening to bullets whiz by your head as you attempt to reload your film. He talked about how being fearful fueled him...not paralyzed him. It kept him alive. It kept him alert. In no way was the man invincible. He has shattered pieces of grenade lodged in his leg. He is half deaf now from all of the noise. But that was his choice. He could have used ear plugs but he didn't want to. He wanted to hear. He had to hear to make it more real for him. But then something very interesting was said. In reference to the first article i posted about "How can one take a picture of something that is happening in front of his eyes...like a man being shot" ...Nachtwey talks about how if given the oppurtunity...where he is the only one who can stop something bad from happening...he will suspend his journalistic job and save them. He talks about the times during lynch mobs that he has intervened and saved someone. Thats really cool to me. These photographers arent machines. They are real people trying to make a difference in the cultural aspect of it all...but at the same time make the right decisions in the process. There are a lot of great things said in this piece and ill continue to learn more about these photographers. So interesting
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Robert Capa is one of the most famous war photographers of the 20th Century. He was there for when the first allied wave of troops stormed the Beaches of Normandy among other crazy moments of war. He is touted as the Titan of War Photography. The article above gives a brief taste of who he was and how famous he quickly became. There is a movie that I will be watching this weekend titled simply "War Photography" that chronicles Capa's profession. Its funny, as famous as he was, he hated his job. A quote in the article that stood out to me was "A war photographers greatest wish is unemployment." But once they start, its hard to get out. They find the fuel to do what they do through the adrenaline attained of being right there in the action. He was fearless and strived for catching the most captivating images. The one above, is one of his most famous. It shows a Spanish Soldier being shot in the head and falling at the moment the bullet is exiting the skull. It is taken in Cordoba during the Spanish Civil War. This defines the brutality and reality of war. Looking at images of hippies placing flowers in soldiers guns has one affect. But this is an example of something that has been lost in recent memory as far as covering the war in Iraq among other examples. The government doesn't want to let these images get out anymore.
This article touches on the work of Susan Sontag who, as we all know, is a very famous photographer and photography critic, especially when it comes to war photography. There is a lot of talk about her work but what really interested me in this article was the thought of the actual photographer of war. Everyone sees the images of war and is shocked or amazed. But can you imagine what its liek to be the one behind the camera? Can you imagine, for a second, taking an image of a mutilated corpse on the side of a road and then lower the camera only to throw up immediately after. This has got my brain thinking and i may have found something very interesting. Who are these people that choose to take the pictures? Why do they do it? And what is the falling action of these peoples lives post war picture taking...? ...to be continued